THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH
Making a childrens film is a surprising change of pace for John Sayles, who usually concerns himself with hard-biting social realism. However, Sayles is not a director of ordinary means and nor is The Secret of Roan Inish an ordinary childrens film, at least in the Spielberg or Disney-esque mold. In fact, when it came out, The Secret of Roan Inish attracted more attention from adults than it did from its intended audience. The films adult appeal seems to be rooted in the Irish American populations fascination with returning to their roots indeed, The Secret of Roan Inish came out around the same time as the other Irish childrens fantasy Into the West (1992), which featured very similar themes. The film takes the mythic nostalgia that the question of Irish roots plays on even further back into a mystic never-was relationship with the land and sea and ultimately a rejection of civilization the real Irish, the film seems to say, have been corrupted by having civilization imposed on them and the loss of their mystic harmony with the sea. The film spends much time showing the art of lost crafts like thatching and the tarring of boats.
Sayles directs low key. The Secret of Roan Inish is a film that gains its effect from a quiet and unassuming approach. It is not a bold and dramatic film. For an American director, Sayles captures the culture and place of coastal Ireland with a remarkable degree of verisimilitude (although, much of this is due to cinematographer Haxell Wexler who does an admirable job of capturing the inhospitability and raw beauty of the Irish landscape). The entire cast give fine performances. Young Jeni Courtney is a particular find, her blonde hair and plaintively open eyes being singularly striking. John Lynchs brooding tight-lipped part as Tadhg is very good. There is also fine support from Mick Lally and Eileen Colgan as the grandparents.
(Nominee for Best Original Screenplay at this sites Best of 1994 Awards).
Full film available online here:-